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Cell Phone Photos Become Art in New TriBeCa Show

By Julie Shapiro | December 13, 2011 3:01pm
"Trapps Mask Replica" by Ken Freedman, on display at the Carriage Trade gallery.
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Carriage Trade/Ken Freedman

TRIBECA — Size doesn't always matter — at least not when it comes to photos.

Even though they are tiny, the 222 cell phone photos on display this month at TriBeCa's Carriage Trade gallery each convey a powerful moment, from the anger of an Occupy Wall Street march to the quiet mystery behind a woman's tattoos.

Carriage Trade owner Peter Scott decided to do the exhibit of cell phone photos as a way of democratizing both the selection of the art and the process of buying it.

He selected the photos by asking dozens of friends and strangers to look through their phones and pick their favorite image.

"It's an appliance everyone has," Scott said of the cell phone. "In that way, it's a very inclusive exhibit."

Contributors range from local children to Sonic Youth founder Lee Ranaldo, who sent in the striking Occupy Wall Street photo.

Gallery visitors can buy limited-edition prints of the 2-inch-by-3-inch photos, one for $40, two for $75 or three for $100.

The show — called "Social Photography II," because Scott did a similar one last winter — is a fundraiser for the nonprofit Walker Street arts space, but it is also a way of engaging the public in art at a lower price point, Scott said.

Art fundraisers often entail auctions where prices soar into the tens of thousands of dollars, or exclusive studio tours that cost hundreds of dollars, Scott said.

By pricing this artwork more affordably, Scott hopes people will begin to see art in the way they see music and concert tickets, as something they can buy even on a modest income.

Scott also likes that cell phone photos have an ambiguous place in the art world.

"It's not very clear — it's evolving," he said. "What are these photographs? Are they art?"

Carriage Trade, 62 Walker St., is open Thursdays to Sundays from 1 to 6 p.m. "Social Photography II" runs through Dec. 20, with a closing party that evening from 6 to 9 p.m.